Rogue Machine Contributes to Jacobson Trilogy with Mexican Day

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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If I was confused and intrigued by Tom Jacobson’s Plunge at Son of Semele Theatre (closing this weekend), Mexican Day brings clarity and perspective to an unspeakable crime, while rehearsing the perpetuation of another at the famous Bimini Baths.

This time, it is 1948, a few years after the war. The Japanese have been released from their mass incarceration, and African Americans, too, have been released from the munitions plants that kept them engaged throughout the WWII.  Although on the surface all seems calm, ethnic differences are fighting to come to the surface.

Zenobio Remedios (Jonathan Medina), whom we only heard about in Plunge, appears now as a porter at Bimini Baths.  He is lauded for being a hard working young man who knows his place and obeys the rules. But soon his peace is shattered by Hisaye Yamamoto (Jully Lee), a young, renegade reporter from the Los Angeles Japanese Daily News, who is researching a rumor about the baths. With civil rights worker, Bayard Rustin (Donathan Walters), she tries to penetrate the “whites only” policy that permits non-whites to bathe on Thursdays, designated “Mexican Day.” Issues of racial exclusion come to surface, complicated by Yamamoto’s enlistment of Everett Maxwell (Darrell Larson), the perpetrator of the crime that was examined in Plunge.

Tom Jacobson weaves his narrative around the true-to-life events of the period to create a fascinating portrait that fills in many of the blanks exposed earlier, while introducing new mysteries.

Expertly limned by Jeff Liu, the ensemble had to postpone the show’s opening; however, the delay only served to cement a seamless rendition of the play with every member pulling together. Darrell Larson, as the now broken Elliott Maxwell, is touching, and Jonathan Medina as his victim strikes just the right notes. Walters and Yamamoto, too are expert as historically significant hot-shots in the fight for racial equality in Los Angeles.

But Rogue Machine’s wondrous production values enhance the work at every turn. John Iacovelli’s Bimeni Baths lobby set is spacious; the 1940s music, augmented by Peter Bayne’s original music, sets the mood. Diane K. Graebner’s costume palette blends historically and visually, and Brian Gale’s workman-like lighting is always welcome Mexican Day is a taut, engrossing examination of past crimes amid shifting social contexts.  Another “must see” from Tom Jacobson.

Rogue Machine presents Mexican Day Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM; Sundays at 5:oo PM & Tuesdays at 7:00 PM through July 7th , 2018, at The Met Playhouse, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles CA 90029. Reservations and information at http://www.roguemachinetheatre.net.